Guns and Rock n’ Roll versus Evil: Hellhound on my Trail by D.J. Butler

Hellhound-On-My-Tail-Cover-814x1024I have been known to use hyperbole. I have also been known to love two books with equal passion even when they have absolutely nothing in common, whether one be a time-tested classic (like, say, Anna Karenina) and the second all fun (think Larry Correia).

I use no hyperbole, then, when I say that D.J. Butler hits the sweet spot with his Rock Band Fights Evil series opener Hellhound on My Trail. It may not withstand the test of time, but I’d pick it up over Ulysses almost any dry summer afternoon.

If there’s one thing that delayed me from picking Hellhound up earlier than I did, it was the cover. But don’t let the comic book-like art on the cover dissuade you. Hellhound on My Trail has more in common with the Monster Hunter International series: guns, monsters, and magic, and a rip-roaring adventure more fun than a barrel of zombies…and maybe even including zombies, too, as well as demons, monsters, and any number of versions of evil and mythical creatures.

Don’t be deceived, though. While Butler’s Hellhound seems straightforward, it is anything but simple-minded. Rather, Butler seems bent on proving that fun can be intelligent. Whether you get that the title is riffing on Robert Johnson’s blues classic or that the incarnation of the devil is a play on the Hebraic translation of Beelzebub or not, the book is a romp to enjoy.

And just because his lead character might be one beer from a DUI, it doesn’t mean that the supporting cast can’t be witty, intelligent, and articulate, either. This doesn’t mean you should expect them to spout Shakespeare, but you can at least plan on laughs and no wasted dialogue.

One of my favorite exchanges happens between Eddie and Mike as they try to open a door. Eddie has been pulling all sorts of items out of his pockets, including duct tape.

“Man of action has to be prepared,” Eddie sniffed.

“Maybe you should MacGuyver open the door.”

“You MacGyver open the door,” Eddie chuckled. “I’m gonna MacGuyver me a little Baal Zavuv.”

“I don’t think MacGuyver used guns.”

Eddie’s eye skewed sideways and then he gritted his teeth and blinked. “I don’t think MacGuyver was ever on Hell’s Ten Most Wanted list.”

Delivered during snappy, non-stop action, the lines feel fluid and made me smile.

Then there’s the narcoleptic “wizard” on the team, constantly dozing off in the midst of crucial moments of the fight. Butler writes him spouting cliches…but never to complete them. Rather than finish the cliché, the wizard breaks off half way through, once you’ve pegged which cliché it is, and finishes with “and so on” or “et cetera” or something like that.

“A stitch in nine, et cetera,” he says. And because it becomes almost a verbal tick for the character, it adds to the color and character depth. I found it very clever.

If there’s one thing that I would have liked to see more of, it’s a bit more attention to detail on some of the details that seem to be lost in the rush of action. Mike, the protag, has a death wish and is on the verge of suicide, and has a pretty dark background. Which, of course, is part of the reason he makes a great addition to the band of the doomed fighting Hell. But Butler brushes past it so quick I almost missed it. Perhaps an updated and expanded draft would fill it in a bit more?

Hellhound on My Trail is short and fast, one long action scene, really. It’s so fast, I almost read it in a single sitting, and would have if I didn’t have work the next day. You can pick it up singly, in e-book, or in a collection with other installments in Rock Band Fights Evil in paper back. It’s worth it. It’s not Tolstoy, but if you like Correia, and I do, this is a fantastic read.

Hellhound on My Trail Book Cover Hellhound on My Trail
Rock Band Fights Evil #1
D.J. Butler
Urban Fantasy
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
December 30, 2011

Heaven doesn't want them. Do they stand a chance in Hell? 

Bass player Mike Archuleta is down on his luck in a major way. The shattered survivor of a misspent youth, he is haunted by the ghost of his dead brother, and is now driven to planning his suicide. Halfway through the show that's supposed to be his last, a hellhound bursts into the club and attacks the band. The band members pull out karate moves, guns, and even a sword... and then things start to get strange. 

Can Mike survive the show? What can he do about his brother's ghost? And what kind of band is this, anyway? 

Hellhound on My Trail is the first installment of Rock Band Fights Evil, a pulp fiction serial by D.J. Butler.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.